Wilmington (North Carolina)

Wilmington is a city in North Carolina, and is the county seat of New Hanover County. Located in the southeastern part of the state, it is home to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial, the Cape Fear Museum, Airlie Gardens, and a large historic district. It is convenient to nearby beaches, and is a relatively short drive from the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, SC, and the I-95 corridor.


The city is famous for its beaches, seafood, and historic plantations. As of the census of 2005, there were about 96,000 people residing in the city, estimates now are just over 100,000, with about 360,000 residents in the metro area. The racial makeup of the city is about 70% White, 26% African American, and the remainder other races.

The cultural opportunities in Wilmington are endless; aquariums, museums, historical sites, festivals, libraries, film studios, theatres, plantations and more can be enjoyed in this richly cultured city.


Wilmington is situated between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. With the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, some 45-60 miles offshore, Historic Wilmington and North Carolina's Cape Fear Coast - Carolina Beach, Kure Beach & Wrightsville Beach enjoy a temperate subtropical climate year-round. Summer temperatures are usually in the 80s. Seasons are mild, with an average 212 sunshine days and a mean average temperature of 63.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The average winter temperature is about 50 degrees.

Get in

By car

2554 more miles!

From the south via I-95 N, or from the direction of Charlotte, you should take US 74 E (exit 14 in North Carolina from I-95). It will take you about an 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Wilmington from the junction of I-95 and US 74. If taking this route, you should be sure to stock up on snacks and drinks, use the restroom, and fill up your gasoline tank before merging onto US 74 E, because stops are few and far between until arriving in Wilmington. US 74 (running concurrent with US 17 and US 76 at this point) crosses the Cape Fear River Bridge into Wilmington just south of the Historic District.

From the north via I-95 S, or from the direction of Raleigh, take I-40 E. Again, it will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Wilmington from the junction of I-95 and I-40. You should be aware that stops between I-95 and Wilmington are also infrequent, although there is a rest area near Warsaw, at the exit for NC 24.

From Barstow, California drive 2555 miles due east on Interstate 40 through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The road ends at Wilmington.

By plane

Wilmington is served by Wilmington International Airport (ILM) , located at 1740 Airport Blvd, to the northwest of downtown. Two airlines fly into ILM: American Airlines and Delta. There are non-stop flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Orlando/Sanford, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.

By bus

Bus service to and from Wilmington is via Carolina Trailways, a subsidiary of Greyhound. Buses connect Wilmington to Charleston, Goldsboro, Myrtle Beach, Raleigh and Savannah. The station is located at 201 Harnett Street in downtown Wilmington. Service is infrequent, with only four arrivals and departures per day, and the station is open for limited hours: 9AM-1PM, and 4PM-6PM.

Get around

Wilmington is very much a driving town. Below are some alternatives to driving, but keep in mind that the boating and biking mentioned are mostly recreational activities, not the best way between points A and B. If you're arriving in Wilmington without a car, you will need to rent one, use cabs for the duration of your stay (which must be called ahead of time), or rely on the inadequate and infrequent coverage of the local bus network.

By bicycle

The NCDOT Cape Fear Run Bicycling Highway 5 connects Apex to Wilmington and closely parallels the RUSA 600km brevet route. The 300-mile Ports of Call Bicycling Highway 3 connects Wilmington to Bath, Edenton, New Bern and Southport. The River to the Sea Bikeway (signed route 1) runs for ten miles from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach along local streets and off-road paths. The Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization produced a map of local bicycle facilities and routes in 2007. More recently the Gary Shell Cross City Trail was constructed, which runs from Wrightsville Beach, through multiple city parks, ending 15 miles later at E.L Wade Park.

By boat

There are two water taxi services that connect downtown Wilmington to the U.S. Battleship North Carolina and connect Wrightsville Beach to the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve at Masonboro Island . Many area attractions, including Carolina Beach, downtown Wilmington, and Wrightsville Beach are accessible by boat via the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway.

By bus

Local bus service is provided by the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, which does business as WAVE Transit. WAVE Transit operates eight local routes through the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County. Most of these operate every 30 min on weekdays. The authority also operates a free downtown trolley that runs every 10 min on weekdays and infrequent service to the towns of Belville, Bolton, Hallsboro, Lake Waccamaw, Leland, Navassa, and Whiteville on the west side of the Cape Fear River. The base fare for a one-way trip is $1.50. The services that cross the river are more expensive.

By car

If you do not drive to Wilmington, it really is advisable to rent a car once you arrive as travel in Wilmington is so difficult without one.

Car rental is available at the airport from these companies:

Traffic can be heavy in some parts of Wilmington (South College Rd., Market St.), but on the whole, driving around town is relatively easy. For the most part, major thoroughfares radiate out from the historic downtown, and there are numerous streets that allow you to cut across these radiating thoroughfares. The new Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway provides easy access to downtown, the airport, Interstate 40, and the beach while bypassing the most congested parts of Wilmington.




You see trailers and movie crews filming on location. When you walk down the street you run into a celebrity. Are you in LA? No. What about New York? Not there either. You are in Wilmington, the USA's third largest film and TV production site. Television shows (such as Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, and HBO's Eastbound & Down) and movies (including Iron Man 3, The Crow, Blue Velvet, and Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive) filmed in Wilmington are making this area a major center of American film and television production.




There is plenty of shopping to be done in Wilmington. Downtown has many neat clothing and shoe stores. Most notable is a cluster of eight historic buildings called The Cotton Exchange. The Cotton Exchange offers a variety of shopping and dining opportunities all in a charming turn of the century setting. Parking for visitors to The Cotton Exchange is free.

Westfield Independence Mall off of Oleander Drive is a respectable mall. Its major department stores are Dillards, JC Penney's, Sears, and Belk's. There are a plethora of other shops to browse as well. The mall wasn't much to talk about before the renovation in 2000. They added the Dillard's and an entire new wing to the mall.

Also, a new shopping center is now complete off of Military Cutoff, near Wrightsville Beach. This shopping center, Mayfaire, is all outdoor but very nice. If you are in good health, you should have no problem parking in one place and walking around the mall. It's sort of upscale (but not out of reach of the average family) with Belk's and such. It also has an incredibly large and nice movie theater. Definitely the best in town. There are also condos located upstairs to some of these buildings. They are costly, but very beautiful. It is a gorgeous place to walk around and shop for the day.


Something Wilmington is not short on is restaurants. No matter what kind of dining you are craving, it can be found.










The area code for Wilmington is 910.

The Time Warner Cable Store in Independence Mall has free internet kiosks set and free wifi access.

Internet access is available at Bella's Sweets & Spirits 19 Market St. Historic Downtown Wilmington, NC, +1 910 762-2777. Bella's Sweets & Spirits is an Italian-style coffee bar that offers free wireless high speed internet access and allows use of their in house computers for a fee. Prices range from $1.25 to $6.75.

Do not go to the public library for Internet access if you are not a New Hanover County resident. Library cards, required for internet access, are free for New Hanover County residents but non-residents must show ID and pay $30.00 a year for a library card .

Additionally, there is a new Internet Café adjacent to the public parking lot below the Pier Arcade in Wrightsville Beach. This is at approximately Public Beach Access entrance 15.

The City of Wilmington also offers free wireless internet access in several areas of downtown. Citi Port Wireless Internet access is a free service provided by the city for citizens along Riverwalk, restaurants and businesses in central downtown. The service is accessible along the central part of Water Street and the foot of Market Street.

Stay safe


Due to several low-income neighborhoods located near the Front Street nightlife district and the fact that the nightlife attracts a hefty group of college students and US military personnel from nearby Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, Wilmington does have a slightly higher crime rate than would be expected from a city of its size. When walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods/areas (particularly at night), exercise the standard level of awareness and caution and try to travel in groups. During late weekend nights, alcohol-fueled fights on Front Street are not unheard of. Typically this occurs around the time bars begin closing at 2:30-3:30AM The police are typically on top of disturbances, however, and such fights serve more as a public nuisance than a threat to safety. The Front Street riverfront nightlife district typically has a considerable mounted police presence on busy nights able to handle any disruptions.

There are several neighborhoods that have reputations as crime spots, but these areas offer nothing of interest to the visitor and are best avoided altogether. Do not mistakenly, particularly at night, wander into low-income neighborhoods that border the riverfront/Front Street district. Violent crime has been known to happen in these areas.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Front Street is quite a busy area; if you find yourself suddenly in an area lacking in pedestrian traffic, there is probable a reason for it so immediately turn around.

A real-time map of reported crimes in Wilmington is available.

Beach/Water safety

Tropical storms

Because Wilmington is on the coast, there is a possibility that a tropical storm system could affect the Wilmington area during hurricane season (June 1 - November 30). Stay informed about any systems and be prepared if one is expected to make landfall in the area. For hurricane safety and preparation tips pick up a hurricane tracking map at a local grocery store.

Stay healthy


Pet health

Just in case a non-human companion needs medical treatment or to be boarded during your travels:


Go next

Routes through Wilmington

Raleigh Benson  W  E  END
Norfolk Jacksonville  N  S  Calabash Myrtle Beach
Charlotte Lumberton  W  E  END
Columbia Florence  W  E  Wrightsville Beach END
Greensboro Sanford  N  S  Carolina Beach Fort Fisher

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.